CHICAGO (jGLi) – The celebration of the miraculous Our Lady of Penafrancia has been observed in the Chicago, Illinois for the last 22 years. Last Saturday, Sept. 17, the Rev. John J. Sanaghan, pastor of St. Matthias Church at 2310 W. Ainslie in Chicago’s north side, assured devotees that they could call St. Matthias Church as the home of Our Lady of Penafrancia “for the next 301 years.”
In brief welcome remarks after the translacion (transfer of the image of the Virgin of Penafrancia from one church to the other), Father Sanaghan, impressed with the big crowd that packed his parish church, has offered his parish church to be shrine of “Ina,” the revered Bikol name of Our Lady of Penafrancia.
The Penafrancia festivities have been observed annually in the home city of Ina in Naga in the Philippines for the last 301 years from the second Friday up to the third Saturday of September. Other parts of the world where there are preponderance of Bikolano devotees have also observed the same festivities simultaneously.
After a 30-minute fluvial procession from Belmont Harbor to Burnham Harbor in Lake Michigan in Chicago Saturday, the image of Penafrancia was returned to St. Matthias church on board a school bus along with the devotees.
BOAT BUFFETTED BY WAVES
“Medyo ma-alon ang Lake. Pero hindi naman ako natatakot dahil kasama ko ang Virgen ng Penafrancia,” (The boat was buffeted by big waves of Lake Michigan. But I was not afraid because I was with the Virgin of Penafrancia.), according to Avelino “Ben” Ner, one of the devotees, who joined the fluvial procession.
But Daniel Hernandez, the three-year-old son of Larry Hernandez, who joined the fluvial procession, was dead tired, when the bus returned to St. Matthias church. His lola (grandmother), Dr. Dona L. Hernandez, who was also on board the boat, said Daniel might have felt dizzy during the trip on board the boat.
The fluvial procession was the culmination of the nine-day novena to usher the feast of the patroness of Bikolnons from the Philippines.
As in the eight previous nights, a chaplet, Rosary and Novena were held starting at 7 p.m. since Sept. 9 in St. Matthias Church.
When the fluvial devotees arrived in front of the St. Matthias Church, like a similar refrain in Naga City, welcoming devotees shouted “Viva La Virgin De Penafrancia !!! Vila El Divino Rostro! (Long Live Virgin of Penafrancia! Long Live the Holy Face!)
In Naga City, the fluvial procession is held at the Naga River.
To sustain attendance of devotees, residents who hailed from different six provinces and three cities of the Bikol region took turns alternately in hosting the nightly vigil.
President Roger “Boy” R. Odiamar of the Confraternity of Our Lady of Penafrancia said observance of the Penafrancia festivities in Chicago is growing each year because of the support of the Filipino American community. “We even got support from a boat owner, who provided us the boat for free during the fluvial procession for the last 22 years. I cannot just thank enough our supporters, including the flower and cape donors, voyadores (devotees), etc..”
But he is also thankful for the support of the Bikolanos notably the group called Bikol U.S.A., which was later renamed Bikol U.S.A. of the Midwest now headed by Ms. Evelyn R. Tolledo of Catanduanes in the Philippines but is now a resident at suburban Schiller Park, Illinois. Ms. Tolledo is this year’s ad hoc committee co-chair.
PENAFRANCIA RETURNED TO ORIGINAL HOME
At the mass during the Fiesta, Fr. John Era was the main celebrant assisted by Rev. Fr. Nelson Garcia and Deacon Roland Merced.
The nightly liturgy ministers included Fathers Nelson Garcia, John Era, Andre Beltran, Danilo Soriano, Leoncio Santiago, Tirso Villaverde, Joel Lopez and Noel Reyes.
Members of this year’s ad hoc committee included Jimmy Alto, Monette Calderon, Amor Saenz, Delia Silva, Aida Joseph, Lura Gonzales, Dona Hernandez, Romy Sarcilla, Alice Llames, Lilia Untalan, Danny Auro and Fely Odiamar.
In Naga City, on the second Friday of September, that is, September 9 this year, the image of the virgin and the Divino Rostro (Holy Face) are transferred, hence the term traslacion, from the Penafrancia Church to the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral by barefoot male voyadores or devotees. While at the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral, the faithful start the Novenario. In previous years, the image of the Our Lady of Penafrancia was kept at the Basilica. But last year, the 300th year or tercenary of celebration, it was brought back to its original home, Penafrancia Church.
The festivities feature a fluvial procession on the ninth day of the novena bringing back the image to the Basilica for the Pontifical Mass. While only men can participate in the traslacion and fluvial procession, women devotees on the other hand have their own procession around the Basilica. (firstname.lastname@example.org)